Deputy president David Mabuza has refused to use the parliamentary platform to condemn human rights abuses, particularly the death penalty imposed by some African states against gay people.
Mabuza cited respect for the sovereignty of countries like Uganda, Mauritania and Somalia, among others, where homosexuality is illegal and same-sex sexual activity could be punished by death.
DA MP Tim Brauteseth urged the deputy president to condemn the anti-gay laws in African countries which have relations with SA, questioning why SA – which is viewed on the continent as a beacon for the protection of the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community – has been silent.
Brauteseth cited a recent Constitutional Court judgment which says that while South Africa respects the sovereignty of its neighbours, it must always strive to ensure that its relations with its neighbours are guided by relations with just, equal, peaceful, human rights orientated and contribute to the democratic order.
Thirty-four African states have anti-gay laws and the irony was that the majority of this legislation is colonial era legislation, and not African.
Brauteseth also spoke about how it was not just the gay community that was targeted, but heterosexual allies – “like myself” – are imprisoned for up to 10 years in some countries for assisting a homosexual friend.
“Surely as the man tasked with assisting the president in the running of this country, I am asking you here and now to take a principled stand and with pride. Take a stand and condemn the actions of African legislators across Africa who are involved human rights abuses. I ask you to do that deputy president,” he said.
Mabuza declined, saying that while Brauteseth’s position on the matter was more or less similar to his, it was not that easy to condemn other countries.
Mabuza said the country’s constitution called upon its leaders to respect the sovereignty of any state – “and we must mind what we say about other people”.
He said there were multilateral platforms like the African Union and Southern African Development Community where such matters could be discussed.
“But you can’t put yourself to be morally above others. You can’t put your belief to be the belief of the rest of the world. The way we believe in things as South Africans, we must not impose our belief to everyone,” he said.
He said this country should seek to negotiate and persuade people to see things the way South Africa sees them using the provided platforms.
“So let us not be arrogant and think we are the best out of this world,” said Mabuza, who was answering MPs’ questions in the National Council of Provinces.
EFF MP Mmabatho Mokause also pressed Mabuza for a condemnation, describing “what is happening” in Uganda as bad, sickening and repulsive.
“How people sleep with one another, where they sleep with each other, should never concern any of us. The silence of South Africa is questionable. We ask ourselves if this is driven by fear or cowardice,” said Mokause.
She asked whether, as a member state of the African Union, the South African government should have already written a strong statement of condemnation relating to the actions of the Ugandan government.
Mabuza restated the respect for others’ sovereignty and use of relevant platforms when addressing such issues.
ANC MP China Dodovu wanted to know: “Is there anything that binds us to interfere in the internal affairs of another country as some members expect us to do?”
To which Mabuza reiterated that SA was a member of a number of multilateral bodies, a signatory to certain agreements and that it upholds the international principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
He also explained that the Constitutional Court of Uganda had nullified the Anti-Homosexuality Act, but that the government had registered the intention to revive it.
“So we are talking about a matter that is still on the table of the people of Uganda, that they are discussing. I am sure we must be decent enough to keep our mouth shut,” he said to applause from ANC MPs.